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The US J-1 Visa for Citizens of Thailand

A citizen of the Kingdom of Thailand, who seeks admission to the United States of America, as a general rule must first acquire a visa. Depending upon the prospective entrants situation they can either apply for a nonimmigrant visa which is intended for those Thais with the intent to leave the USA. Also there is the immigrant visa for those Citizens of Thailand who intend to remain in the United States. Under the provisions of United States Immigration law the prospective Thai entrants US visa category will be dictated by their unique circumstances.

The J Visa Category was promulgated under the provisions of the United States Immigration and Nationality Act. The J-1 visa is the subcategory most often utilized by Citizens of Thailand wishing to enjoy the benefits accorded to J visa holders. The J-1 visa is a non-immigrant visa which means that the Thai applicant must have non-immigrant intent (an intention on the part of the Thai national to leave the United States once the visa has expired). Further, a Thai national wishing to obtain a J-1 visa must first meet the visa requirements and gain acceptance into the Exchange Visitor Program, before a J-1 visa will be issued to the Citizen of Thailand.

What is the Exchange Visitor Program? What does it have to do with a J-1 Visa from Thailand?

The United States Exchange Visitor Program (EVP) is administered through the terms of the amended Mutual Educational and Cultural Exchange Act of 1961. The Act was created to facilitate cultural exchange between the Citizens of the United States and Citizens from other countries around the world, including Thailand. The hope is that foreign nationals will travel to the USA, interact with Americans, experience the American way of life, and take their experiences back to their home countries in order to share what they have learned. All J-1 visas are issued through the EVP.

What are the Requirements to Obtain a J-1 Visa (Exchange Visitor Visa) for a Citizen of Thailand?

After it has been established that the Thai J-1 visa applicant has been accepted into the Exchange Visitor Program the J-1 applicant must still show that they have Non-Immigrant intent. US Immigration law is quite explicit about the requirement of non-immigrant intent. The Citizen of Thailand must show that they meet this requirement before the J1 exchange visitor visa will be issued by the US Embassy Thailand. An officer of the United States Consular Section will decide if the Thai applicant will receive the visa. The successful J-1 visitor visa application in Thailand must show that:

  • 1. The Thai National seeking the J-1 Visa seeks to stay in the United States for an impermanent, definite, and short-term period of time.
  • 2. The Citizen of Thailand seeking the visa has substantial financial resources in order to meet the cost of living in the USA
  • 3. The Thai applicant must demonstrate that they have compelling social and economic ties to the Kingdom of Thailand or some other country outside of the United States. Further, it must be proven that these ties will necessitate the Thai J-1 visa holder leaving the United States of America.

Since September 11, 2001 The officials at the United States Embassy in Bangkok, Thailand have scrutinized J-1 visa applications more diligently. Also, Immigration Officers have become more stringent in enforcing more restrictive legislation. The result is that many more J-1 visa application are currently being denied than has historically been the case.

A special note with regard to J-1 visas from Thailand

Much like the American Tourist Visa or the American Student Visa, many Thai-American couples in Thailand try to use the J-1 Exchange Visitor Visa to circumvent the need for obtaining a K-1 Visa (The US Fiance Visa) or an American Marriage Visa (IR-1, CR-1, K-3). This course of action is usually unwise because providing false information to Immigration adjudicators or Consular officers could be grounds for a criminal finding of immigration fraud. Defrauding the US Government for Immigration benefits could result in barring the Thai applicant from the USA and/or a denial of a visa for a Thai at a later date based upon a legal ground of inadmissibility. Criminal charges could be levied against both the US Citizen and the Thai National in this scenario.

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